Q: Why do my cucumber fruits always curl? Even small picklers curl. We had the soil tested at North Dakota State University and they said it was fine, and not to add anything. Any ideas?—Gary Lentz, Moorhead. A: Curling cucumber fruits are most commonly caused by pollination problems. Cucumber flowers are pollinated by insects, mostly bees, that must visit each flower multiple times for complete pollination to produce a normal fruit. Inadequate pollination happens when there are too few bees, or when weather conditions are too wet, dry, hot, cool or cloudy.
Wouldn't it be fun to have a yard that looks like the grounds of Buckingham Palace? Unfortunately, most of us don't have a head gardener with an entourage of laborers at our disposal. Gardening magazines and online sites are filled with low-maintenance yard suggestions and tips for what they term "lazy gardeners." But many of the tips risk turning a yard into something that invites a visit from the local weed-control officer. Instead, let's explore suggestions that reduce work, yet keep our lawns, gardens and flowerbeds looking pleasant and well-tended.
People around the world have been gardening since humans first developed a fondness for food. And vegetable gardening isn't much different whether you're Norwegian, German, Somali, Nigerian, Swedish, Burundi, Polish or Hispanic. What would happen if people from such diverse cultures came together to garden shoulder to shoulder?
Q: During the fall of 2015, we planted four Colorado Blue Spruce trees that were 18 to 20 feet tall. They were installed by a tree mover, then secured with straps and stakes. Last year we added six smaller ones ranging from ten to fourteen feet tall, and staked them also. How soon can we remove the straps and stakes with confidence that the spruce have established themselves?—John and Jo Ann Miller, Fargo.
I love gardening phrases. As a small boy, when Mom said Aunt Margaret had "taken a slip," I thought she had fallen on the ice. Actually, she had snipped a coleus stem to start a new plant from a cutting, sometimes called a "slip." Likewise, "cutting back" doesn't mean you've given up cupcake calories at snack time. Cutting back is a garden phrase for reducing the height of a plant for a specific purpose. Early March works well for cutting back plants because they'll have about two and a half months to regrow before the outdoor gardening season begins in mid-May.
Q: We're looking for advice to help our young crabapple tree. Several winter storms and heavy snow weighed down a branch and caused a split down the main trunk. Is there anything that can be done? The tree has sentimental value—Peggy Klocke, Carrington, N.D.
Do you know what my most frequently heard gardening statement is? "I just don't have a green thumb." My answer is always: "Yes, you do." All of our thumbs turn green when we do many small, simple things properly. I was reminded of this recently while working with our houseplants. I noticed two spider plants that had been started at the same time a year ago, but now they look very different.
Q: I want to share what I found yesterday with our perennial sedum. I don't know what might happen, but I'm guessing we will get too cold again for the little shoots that are starting to grow.—Dick Sinner, Casselton, N.D. A: This winter's extended warm period has coaxed some perennials to begin growing dangerously early, which might cause problems. When early extended periods of warm temperatures arrive in late winter with little insulating snow cover, soil freezes and thaws multiple times, causing continual expansion and contraction.
You can always spot a gardener because they save stuff. Our garages have a section dedicated to used cell-packs, plastic nursery pots and a stack of old flats that we're keeping because we might need them someday. If gardeners are so thrifty, how do we reconcile our yearly plant expenditures? It's easy. We convince ourselves that since we don't party on the French Riviera, own a yacht docked in Boston harbor or drink Dom Perignon, we're justified in buying plants.
Q: Is there a garden center in town that stocks all of the recommended vegetable seed and plant cultivars based on the yearly updated North Dakota State University Extension list? It would be so much easier if I could purchase them all in one place versus driving around town to look for them at various garden centers.—Kari Forster, Fargo.